History of the Munich Oktoberfest
The Wiesn - from a wedding to the largest public festival in the world!
It all began with the wedding of the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig (later known as King Ludwig I) to princess Therese from Saxony-Hildburghausen (hence the name of the Theresienwiese or Therese's green) on October 12, 1810. Five days later, the National Guard organized a large public horse race to ensure that the Bavarian folk could also partake in the wedding celebration. It was decided that the festival should be repeated at the same time the following year, which marked the birth of the "October-Festivals".
In 1811, the Bavarians additionally celebrated an agricultural festival. In contrast to the horse race, this festival has held to this day. Every three years this "central agricultural festival" takes place on the southern part of the Theresienwiese.
The enormous entertainment spectrum today didn't exist in the past. A couple of carousels and several beer stands were all at that time with those first beer tents appearing in 1896.
As Munich was considerably smaller in the past, the proprietors and event organizers went out to the Wiesn for the starting ceremonies. This tradition is still reflected today with the entry of the tent proprietors on Saturday morning in the parade.
The mayor Thomas Wimmer first started the well-known tradition of tapping the beer keg in the 1950s. The mayor taps the first keg on the first Wiesn Saturday at exactly 12:00pm and calls out "O'zapft is!" (which means the keg has been tapped). Since then, the mayor has always tapped the first keg.
But the Wiesn also has its dark side. Thirteen visitors were killed in a bomb attack at the main entrance in 1980 and over 200 were seriously injured. The Wiesn has been cancelled a total of 24 times in its history for reasons of war, cholera and inflation.